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Chiasmus as a divine pattern of teaching

  1. Eric Graham believes that chiasmus is not just a literary device favored by Hebrews in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, but a pattern that helps in teaching and understanding.Graham, a senior majoring in economics at Brigham Young University, was speaking at the Eleventh Annual Religious Education Student Symposium recently held at BYU. Chiasmus as a literary form is a pattern of organizing text in what Graham called an \"inverted parallelism.\" It is a pattern of organizing information that repeats the beginning of a work in reverse order — starting that reverse order in the center. Graham gave the simple example of \"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.\" \"Fail\" is the first element and \"plan\" is the second. Then it reverses order to \"plan\" and then \"fail.\"\"It's like a mirror reflection,\" Graham said.Graham said there are four reasons why chiasmus is a good teaching method — one that he said Jesus often used:Chiasmus draws attention to the center point. \"That center point is emphasized as we move toward it and as we back away from it,\" Graham said. \"(It) is often the most doctrinally significant point of the passage.\"
  2. Chiasmus is a pattern that captures our attention. Graham quoted Robert L. Pack, who said, \"We invent poetry and higher mathematics because our brains hunger for patterns.\" Graham said this is our nature and that it encourages us to seek relationships between elements.
  3. Chiasmus creates constructive opposition. By placing similar and opposite points in balance with each other you create new meaning that would be absent without the parallel. \"You've got concepts that may or may not be the same ... they may seem to oppose (each other) but they actually build up,\" Graham said.
  4. Chiasmus is a \"reflective teaching\" method that invites us to ponder. \"It can't be understood at face value — we have to dig in further,\" Graham said.

Graham believed that Christ had used chiasmus to help teach in the scriptures. He wondered if it could apply in a more general sense to the plan of salvation. To test this idea he used a description of the plan of salvation he pulled out from the \"Medium Lesson Plan\" on pages 55-56 in \"Preach My Gospel.\" Happiness God is our Father, and He loves us

We lived with Him before we were born

We use our God-given agency


Physical body (mortal)

Physical death . . . and spiritual death

Jesus Christ is Central

Physical and spiritual death

Physical bodies (immortal)

Spirit world

Judged according to our works and desires

Eternal life in His presence

Our Heavenly Father has again reached out to His children in love